'Parents going without meals during school holidays to feed their children'

Parents and children are going hungry in the school holidays [Photo: Getty]

Parents are skipping proper meals and surviving only on cereal during the school holidays to ensure their children are fed, MPs have warned.

As a result the Government is being urged to extend support for families to stop children and families going hungry during the long summer break.

Frank Field, chairman of the Work and Pensions Select Committee, said MPs on the panel and the Education Select Committee heard "profoundly distressing" evidence from mums revealing their struggles during the summer holidays.

In a letter to education secretary Gavin Williamson and work and pensions secretary Amber Rudd, Mr Field called for urgent action to be taken to help struggling parents.

"We heard about parents going without meals and surviving on cereal just to make sure their children were fed,” he wrote. “We heard about families being plunged into debt, just to get by.”

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MPs found that childcare costs and the need to buy school uniform can further exacerbate the struggles parents face during the holidays.

Now the government is being urged to extend a pilot scheme that supports children eligible for free school meals during the summer break.

The concerning news comes as the committee published a report looking at levels of poverty and destitution in the UK, which found that though pensioner poverty has fallen it may have been at the expense of younger people.

MPs heard evidence from the Social Metrics Commission which suggests that poverty rates among pension-age adults fell from 20.8% in 2001 to 11.4% in 2017, but the Institute for Fiscal Studies predicts a 7% rise in child poverty between 2015 and 2022.

“There is now no effective strategy to increase the life chances of poorer children,” Field said.

"It [the government] has failed to recognise the unacceptably bleak picture emerging as it shreds our social safety net."

The government is being urged to take urgent action to help parents in the holidays [Photo: Getty]

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Commenting on the issue a government spokesman said: "We're helping people to improve their lives through work and ensuring those on a low income keep more of what they earn by increasing the National Living Wage and cutting taxes for 32 million people.

"There are more people in work than ever before and wages continue to outstrip inflation, but we recognise that some families need more support.

"That's why we're investing £9 million in free summer holiday clubs and continuing to spend £95 billion a year on working age welfare to support families."

News of the struggles many parents are facing during the summer holidays comes as research revealed two thirds (61%) of parents believe the summer break should be shorter.

The survey of 2,000 parents by tuition provider Explore Learning revealed that part of the reason for the holiday-dread is concerns over finances.

Half of parents said they find it hard to get time off over the summer holidays and 46% said sourcing childcare for this extended period of time is challenging.

As a result finances are strained as over a third (35%) admit to struggling to pay for childcare, and 39% find it hard to pay for family holidays as they are so expensive.

Additional reporting by PA.